Have they just released the finest debut album of 2018?
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The song remains the same? Yes… and no.
Let’s get it out of the way upfront: yes, this debut album from this muchhyped Michigan band sails close to Led Zeppelin. Not quite so close as to have Jimmy Page calling his lawyers, but close enough to prompt anyone who has heard them to gaze wistfully into the middle distance and think of velvet loon pants, 50-minute drum solos and private planes kept airborne on clouds of cocaine. Greta Van Fleet themselves may plead juvenile ignorance and pull all the innocent, “Who? Us?” faces they want, but the fact is that the future of rock’n’roll sounds a lot like its past.
On the evidence of this album, that’s not such a bad thing. It might be saddled with the worst title in living memory, but Anthem Of The Peaceful Army really is one of the most exciting records released by a new band in recent years. This is partly a result of the amount of money and attention that’s being thrown at them – this is the first time in years that a rock band has been given a genuine fighting chance by a major label – but it’s mostly down to the youthful, unmanufacturable exhilaration that courses through its 10 tracks.
The same naiveté that allows Greta
Van Fleet to echo the biggest of the big beasts of the 70s without blushing also allows them to properly rock out without fear of ridicule. Mountains Of
The Sun kicks in with some freewheeling bottleneck guitar and doesn’t let up for four and a half minutes, while the heroic Cold Wind could have been plucked from one of those Best Of The Old Grey Whistle Test programmes that you find on BBC4 on Friday nights.
But Greta Van Fleet know how to conjure an atmosphere, too. Album opener Age Of Man, with its evocations of ‘wonderlands of ice and snow’, billows and floats before erupting into a blinding sunburst chorus. It’s as familiar as a battered old vinyl copy of Houses Of The Holy, but weirdly modern too. An estate agent would call it ‘timeless’.
Anthem Of The Peaceful Army isn’t quite the finished article. Josh Kiszka’s Plantalike vocals hit the high register from the start and stay right up there throughout; more than once you find yourself wincing and muttering: “Turn it down, sunshine.” And the closing title track lays on the cloying, hippie-dippy sentiment so thickly that you can’t help thinking that perhaps Altamont wasn’t such a bad thing after all.
At the final count, Anthem Of The Peaceful Army is shaping up to be the finest debut album of both 2018 and 1972.